September 14, 2008

We've had the pleasure of house sitting for a long weekend. After a quick stop in Asheville to visit family, we headed north through the Appalachians. And here we are in the Blue Ridge. I said it was unexpectedly beautiful. The landscape here represents a homecoming of sorts, for both Joe and me. The children are newly enchanted. But the truth of the rural serenity, the scope and sweep of the land, the apple trees, the mist and water, the wildlife, the history, and the views never fail to move me. They are almost like a surprise, every time. Do you know the feeling of renewed acquaintance? James Taylor said it hit him from behind. Running up in the mountains feels just that very way.

So that is not altogether unexpected. But this house, the people who live here, and especially the way they live, are completely delightfully unexpected. In exchange for feeding their eleven year old dog we are living in their purple house off of their organic gardens gazing with wonder as their neighbor, Quail, informs us they own what we can see. We can see the ridge running round us like a mixing bowl, and the lip spills away over further rolling ridges full of blue mist.

Their house is full of books. Not just any books, but the books I've been meaning to read. Their land is full of gardens. Not just any gardens, but the kind based on an obvious permaculture mentality to which I aspire. There are no synthetic fragrances here. The compost bucket is under the sink. The green house is full of produce they didn't finish putting up before they had to leave. The beds are down. The floors are wood. And I may never leave.

Before we even got out of the car, Riley asked for a sketch pad and some water colors, her eyes drinking in the landscape. Joe picked those up for her on the grocery run. This morning she told me she sat in bed late last night sketching by moon light and memory. She is looking carefully. Henry wrote a poem yesterday, has read three books since we got here, and has been practicing aikido rolls down the loamy green lawn. And I do mean down. Both children have spent most of their time grazing in the raspberry patch.

They have more raspberries here than I have ever seen in any one place. I can't even talk to you about the apples. This is to say nothing, what so ever, of the vegetable gardens. Henry, wanting a snack, goes to pick green peppers. Ry doesn't step outside here without a basket or a bowl.

Except when she and I slipped down to the spring - a pipe coming out of the side of the mountain and running freely. She carried a towel and I carried a camera. I'll never publish those photos, and anyway they are in film. I shot a few digital pictures the very first hour we were here. I'll post some now. There won't be any more and I don't care. I've shot 5 rolls of film in black and white.

This morning I was up at 5. I plucked Animal Vegetable Miracle, by Barbara Kingsolver, off their shelf and began to read. I've been meaning to read this book. I suppose it would be inappropriate to quote the entire first chapter here. But I am totally tempted. Imagine me sitting here reading this, this morning:

The baby boom psyche embraces a powerful presumption that education is a key to moving away from manual labor, and dirt--two undeniable ingredients of farming. It's good enough for us that somebody, somewhere, knows food production well enough to serve the rest of us with all we need to eat, each day of our lives.

If that is true, why isn't it good enough for someone else to know multiplication and the contents of the Bill of Rights? Is the story of bread, from tilled ground to our table, less relevant to our lives than the history of the thirteen colonies? Couldn't one make a case for the relevance of a subject that informs choices we make daily--as in, What's for dinner? Isn't ignorance of our food sources causing problems as diverse as over dependence on petroleum, and an epidemic of diet-related diseases?

...Many bright people are really in the dark about vegetable life. Biology teachers face kids in classrooms who may not even believe in the metamorphosis of bud to flower to fruit and seed, but rather, some continuum of pansies becoming petunias becoming chrysanthemums; that's the only reality they witness as landscapers come to campuses and city parks and surreptitiously yank out one flower before it fades from its prime, replacing it with another... The same disconnection from natural processes may be at the heart of our country's shift away from believing in evolution. In the past, principles of natural selection and change over time made sense to kids who'd watched it all unfold. Whether or not they knew the terms, farm families understood the processes well enough to imitate them: culling, selecting, and improving their herds and crops. For modern kids who intuitively believe in the spontaneous generation of fruits and vegetables in the produce section, trying to get their minds around the slow speciation of the plant kingdom may be a stretch.

Well yes, just so. Our life, my aspirations, and what is on my mind and in our handmade homeschool today, but it's time to get off this computer. The children are back from the spring and there are some mountains to climb.


rae said...

Oh, my friend. There is a heaven - and you are in it!!! I would be jealous if I wasn't so happy for you. Please, please come back and teach us all!!!

Mommylion said...

Just wow. Beautiful.

Heather said...

What a wonderful opportunity to experience a life just like what you're aspiring to, if even for a week. Sometimes knowing that someone else is actually *doing* something makes it seem as if it's not so much of an endeavor for yourself. It IS a reachable goal.

I remember reading years ago that some largish percentage of elementary school kids in New York or Chicago or Some Big City, actually believed that corn came from a factory. Where it came from prior to being canned, they didn't know or care. Food comes from the store. That was a real eye-opener for me, because while my first reaction was shock - growing up surrounded by corn fields - it occurred to me that I wasn't sure how rice was grown. Huge, huge worldwide staple, and I had no real clue about it. And I sure didn't learn it in school.

I guess we learn about things that are closest to home. Which is why it's great when you can tailor your home around what you want to learn.

Annie said...

Stunning. It sounds like a dream! I wish I was there too, especially for the raspberries!

Sarah said...

Rae, you're so nice! I'm happy for her *and* jealous! lol Very jealous - that sounds like exactly where I want to be in ten years.

Katherine said...

Thanks y'all! :)

It was like being plunked down into what we might wish for our future - like maybe having the good fortune to turn into these people living this life, if we were so lucky. It was a vacation in a vacation spot, for sure. But it was also an oddly everyday kind of experience. We were living in their home, tasting their life. And it was so sweet.

There was a miscommunication and the couple who own the house came home the night before we expected them. (I had mostly cleaned the house in preparation for an early morning departure - THANK GOODNESS!) And this turned out to be one of the best parts of the trip. They were as lovely and warm and bright and generous and liberal and thoughtful as their stuff had suggested. They stayed up drinking wine with us that night. They got up and made pancakes with raspberry sauce the next morning. Then they insisted on taking us out to meet a man with a cow.

Cows, they open doors. Who knew?

Anyhow, I wish I could house sit for each of you and that you might each come home early and we might discover a lovely simpatico then, between us. I am grateful you all take the time to read here and comment. Thank you!